Six Ways to Grow and Retain
Leaders for the Long Haul
Keeping strong leadership in
Nearly every business leader and HR execu- tive can agree that one of the most impor- tant assets to a company or organization is its leadership. From the front lines to the boardroom, our leaders keep us up and running through massive growth or economic downturns.
For the food industry, leaders can do the most good
or most harm when it comes to keeping food safe and
profits growing. No technology or regulation will help
keep our food supplies and bottom line healthy if a
company fails to foster and retain good leaders (see
“Ten Characteristics of a Great Leader,” p. 27). However, we also know how tough it is to prevent our best
and brightest leaders from seeking other opportunities
should they become stagnant or frustrated in their jobs.
It’s equally difficult to identify future leaders using a
conventional interview process.
Fortunately for TruFoodMfg, that hasn’t been a problem. Over the past 10 years, we have grown our employee base from 20 to more than 600. And in the last 5
years, during the height of our growth, we’ve managed
to retain 95 percent of our leaders.
We retain leaders by creating loyalty through an open
and honest work environment with a clear and progressive path to advancement and professional growth. Specifically, here are some steps we’ve taken to help develop
and retain leaders:
1. Start with the Handshake
We identify future leaders by building trust and an
open line of communication from the very beginning,
starting with the phone screen and job interview.
We follow a uniquely candid and casual interview process because we want
candidates to be their true selves. We
tell candidates to not worry about answering a question correctly, just answer
it. And we encourage them to relax and
ask any questions that come to mind.
This approach enables us to know early
on if they have leadership skills or traits
that can be developed. These characteristics might otherwise remain hidden if
they’re worried about the interview.
In return, we are very open and honest about the job, our expectations and
what’s needed to be successful with the
company. A lot of companies clamp
down during the interview process,
causing candidates to misrepresent
themselves or hide their best qualities.
We like to get everything on the table
for a relaxing, engaging and revealing
2. Show the Path to Success
One of the first things we do at new-hire orientation is to demonstrate the
opportunity for growth within the organization. We introduce company leaders
and share their history of advancement,
proving that the new employees can
also succeed with a plan that is understandable and achievable. It’s about
creating a vision of opportunity, which
helps them realize that there are no ceilings to prevent them from growing with
the company and having the company
grow with them.
3. Turn Feedback into Action
We have created an environment
where leaders can contribute ideas and
solutions to problems. This is done
in the form of quarterly leadership
communication meetings, regular HR
roundtable discussions and recurrent
continuous improvement exercises in
which leaders at all levels come together
to troubleshoot organizational issues
ranging from consumer complaints to
enhancing work-safe practices.
The idea here is that no policy or